The proposed health centre for Oceanside came under fire at Wednesday night’s Qualicum Beach election forum, with some candidates calling it inadequate and others calling it a good first step.
But while some candidates still called for a hospital to be built in Oceanside, others stressed the need to upgrade the local ambulance service.
The forum, sponsored by The News and the Qualicum Beach Chamber of Commerce, saw the Civic Centre packed for the second night in a row with voters eager to assess the positions of the nine council and two mayoral candidates.
Mayoral candidate Teunis Westbroek praised the current plan, stressing that it represents the first portion of a possibly larger project.
“This is long overdue,” he said, “We should make the health centre a beginning and pursue as many services as we can in this town.”
His rival, mayoral candidate Mike Wansink, also supported the centre, noting he has been fully engaged in the process from early days.
Candidate Dave Willie was a strong proponent of improving the ambulance service, noting the proposed health centre is already experiencing difficulty in attracting physicians to staff it.
“They are having difficulties finding doctors to work in the new facility,” Willie said. “I hate to think of the challenges to fully equip and staff a hospital. I want to get to a hospital. That’s the biggest issue. I need to get to where they have the equipment to keep me alive.”
Scott Tanner said while there should be a focus on improved ambulance service, he stressed the need to keep pressure on the province once the health centre is built, in order to expand the services it offers.
Carol Nicol Dowe said she sees the health centre as a start.
“I think of it as a beginning, and from there we can expand to give more provisions for us here,” she said. “However, having an ambulance well out fitted for us here is essential, either to get us to Nanaimo or to the health centre.”
Bill Luchtmeijer agreed with Willie, arguing Qualicum Beach would be better served by improved ambulance service than by a hospital that can’t be staffed, or a health centre that’s an intermediate stop on the way to hospital.
“Ambulance care for Qualicum Beach is the only answer at this time.”
Tom Davies gave a passionate defence of the current proposal for a health centre.
“Our association is made up of 10 groups and they have been working their butts off for three years to get where we are now,” he said. “Make no mistake, there is no hospital coming here any time soon, but we will get an urgent care facility that will serve our needs. It will be a foundation to build in the future. You have to have something in place so you can build on it. To those who say it’s not good enough, what’s your solution? What have you done?”
Mary Brouilette sided with the centre, stressing the need to support the proposal.
“The decision has been made,” she said. “It’s important we support this. It’s not everything, but it’s a start.”